Shorter assessments for overseas nurses

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10% of UK based nurses and midwives come from outside of Europe

Nurses and midwives who train in hospitals outside of Europe will face shorter tests to check they are suitable to work in the UK.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) will replace the minimum three months of supervised practice currently used with a computer based exam and tests in simulated clinical scenarios. The changes have been suggested to speed up the recruitment process, as the NMC reports that current methods are “not agile enough for employers who need to recruit quickly”.

Official figures suggest some 67,000 nurses and midwives who completed training outside Europe currently hold NMC registration, making up about 10% of the UK workforce. Approximately 1,000 nurses a year come to work in the UK from outside of Europe, coming from countries such as Australia, India or the Philippines.

Move faster

As well as the supervised practice not providing qualified staff quickly enough, experts have also observed that places on these programmes are in short supply, emphasising the problem. The new tests are due to start in the autumn and will consist of two parts, starting with a computer based multiple choice exam that discusses various situations, before moving on to an observation section, where applicants are viewed during simulated healthcare scenarios.

Jackie Smith, the NMC chief executive, told BBC News “The new system will not replace the need for employers to ensure that the staff they recruit display the behaviours, skills and knowledge necessary for the specific role to which they are recruited, and provide further support and development as required.” The regulator said of the new system “This will ensure the hundreds of nurses and midwives who trained overseas and wish to practise in the UK are assessed in a a proportionate and robust way, in order to protect the public.”

Janet Davies, executive director of nursing at the Royal College of Nursing said “Health care in the UK relies on the hard work and dedication of many nurses who trained overseas. These proposals may well form part of a more robust and consistent mechanism for ensuring that nurses who work in the UK are equipped to practise in the UK. However, we need to know more about how nurses will be evaluated as part of this system before we can judge whether or not the system is adequate. Whether nurses come from the EU or the rest of the world, it is vital that employers are recruiting them for the right reasons and supporting them when they get there. Too often, nurses are recruited from overseas to fill short term gaps and given inadequate support to care for patients well.”